Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Air date: 5/31/1993
Written by Joe Menosky
Directed by Cliff Bole
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
A Klingon ship returns from the Gamma Quadrant, virtually destroyed by an internal mutiny. When the DS9 crew beams aboard the only survivor, they also beam over a "telepathic matrix," which infects the senior staff and causes them to re-enact an alien power struggle.
"Dramatis Personae" does not have an inspired premise—the power play has been done before, and using a convenient sci-fi explanation to warrant erratic behavior is hardly conducive for real drama. However, what works to a degree here are some of the subtle details surrounding the concept, which makes it interesting enough to be reasonably entertaining.
The way Kira's mutiny grows out of the situation set up at the beginning of the episode—her disagreement with Sisko on allowing suspected Cardassian-aiding smugglers to dock at DS9—smoothly integrates the real plot into the contrived one. Also neat is how the different characters take on distinct personalities of circumstance once the mutiny begins to brew. The uncaring Sisko, the sultrily venomous Kira, the anecdote-spewing Dax, the strategizing O'Brien, and the "neutral" Bashir in the middle—all are characters who convey a weird persona that somehow adds a bizarre spin on the show's tone.
Odo's cleverness works decently in the plot, as he plays both sides long enough to resolve the problem. Most of the show's best moments are subtle touches that aren't crucial to the story, but raise the overall level of interest. Sisko's inexplicable clock-building is one welcome bit of strangeness in this 100 percent Joe Menosky concept. Still, the inevitable feeling of pointlessness that ultimately comes out of the forced situation is all but unavoidable.
Previous episode: The Forsaken
Next episode: Duet
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46 comments on this post
Sun, Apr 14, 2013, 6:48pm (UTC -5)
Fri, May 17, 2013, 11:56pm (UTC -5)
"forced situations" is not standard fare for Deep Space Nine, or at least it ended up not being.
Mon, Jun 24, 2013, 9:20pm (UTC -5)
Unlike Jammer, I didn't find their behavior entertaining in the least because I knew it didn't mean anything.
A miss for me.
Wed, Sep 11, 2013, 11:28am (UTC -5)
this was an okay episode. nothing great.
Mon, Oct 14, 2013, 8:49pm (UTC -5)
3 stars from me.
Tue, Oct 22, 2013, 2:08pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Feb 26, 2014, 10:49am (UTC -5)
Sat, Apr 26, 2014, 10:43am (UTC -5)
The most interesting part for me though (brought on by binge-viewing DS9 again at the moment) is a throwaway comment by O'Brien right at the beginning, that keiko's taken a bunch of kids on an outing to Bajor. Its surely no coincidence that Winn turns up 2 episodes later ("In the Hands of the Prophets") at Keiko's school to sit in on one of her lessons, which is then denounced as blasphemous, presumably having got wind of Keiko's school through the Bajor outing. This is what sets DS9 above the other Trek series in my books, the way it's plotlines have been intricately laid out right from the start. Contrast this with Voyager, where promising antagonism between the Federation and Marquis crew was dropped pretty quickly by the end of Season 1.
Mon, Jun 23, 2014, 8:59am (UTC -5)
Tue, Jun 24, 2014, 8:02pm (UTC -5)
I like episodes like this. Back in the 90s I stopped watching because I can't stand stories about Bajor. I can't stand their race or their worshiping of the wormhole aliens. So I always wanted to see more episodes where weird things happened like this and the episode Visionary. Now later on I do like the long story arcs but I wish they would have gotten rid of 90% of the bajoran stories and added ones like this
Mon, Jul 7, 2014, 1:50pm (UTC -5)
'Observer Effect" is alien possession done right, this is not.
No drama, Odo was going to save the day. blah, blah...
2 stars because Rene Auberjonois again makes DS9 watchable.
Wed, Aug 20, 2014, 4:38pm (UTC -5)
Kira shows up in Sisko's office to be a bitch (this is after all, her most natural state). She wants to deny a Valerian ship docking status at the station because the Valerians sold weapons to the Cardassians during the occupation and she believes they are continuing to do so. It's a nice callback to the more interesting parts of “Emissary” in that we are reminded why Starfleet is here, calling the shots: because the Cardassians would otherwise return on a moment's notice to reclaim Bajor. Sisko offers that the Federation would use political pressure to keep the Valerians from trading weapons with the Cardassians if Kira can find evidence to support her theory. Since it was Federation political pressure that finally drove the Cardassians off Bajor without starting another war, this should be an amenable idea to Kira. Shockingly, she actually follows this supremely logical course and decides to grant the ship access.
A Klingon ship emerges from the wormhole and explodes, transporting one injured individual to Ops who, with his dying breath, proclaims “victory.” Well, this is exciting! Mystery, political intrigue, reasonable characterisation. Looks like we're in for a great episode!
Act 1 : **.5, 17%
Sisko sends the Smart People in a runabout to investigate what the Klingon's ship was up to in the Gamma Quadrant and we get a close up on Terry Ferrel smiling goofily. Normally, this would just be another instalment of derp...acting? (see the last scene in “Q-less”), but the music tells us this is baaad news. She giggles and heads out with O'Brien.
Meanwhile, Kira is being her cheerful self, ordering a “slight delay” of the Valerian ship for her own personal suspicions, but Sisko overrides and clears the ship, cueing the third time Kira slams her hands against her console in this scene.
Odo and Quark chat about Klingons. Quark immediately sees through Odo's attempts to cull information about the ship, so Odo has to resort to bribery (you'd think Quark would be happy about this). Quark reveals the Klingon crew were after something “glorious” (what else could it be?). Odo turns to leave, but has a kind of Changeling seizure in which his head flaps open like a pair of wings and he falls unconscious (I immediately thought of Data's embossed tattoo from “Masks”). I still don't understand why an unconscious Odo wouldn't revert to a pile of goo. Is it not established that maintaining humanoid form requires concentration?
Act 2 : **, 17%
Odo “wakes up” in the Infirmary and Bashir has little to offer other than a rather cryptic set of paranoid theories.
Kira confronts Sisko in his office with her “hard evidence,” ready to confront the Valerians. She and Sisko get into a weird battle of wills and she steps aside.
O'Brien notes Kira's increased antagonism to Dax and they start acting weird as well, picking sides—Dax gets a little too chatty, O'Brien a little too terse.
Kira meets with Odo to gain his support, giving us a preview of her awful “intendant” style from the MU. Kira asks Odo to infiltrate the vessel behind Sisko's back. Odo refuses and she backs down offering the same “choose a side” bit from before. While these character shifts border on interesting, they are happening so quickly that they already feel like a gimmick, long before we know what's causing them.
Act 3 : **, 17%
O'Brien notes in his personal log that Kira “must have spies everywhere,” and thus the transformation from normal to influenced is basically complete in the course of the previous act. The Smart People retrieve a portion of the Klingon's logs and the crew review them in Ops, while Sisko expresses a profound boredom in the whole thing. Odo observes everyone's odd behaviour with concern.
Meanwhile, Quark makes Dax a sand sculpture to drink, mmm mmm. Kira shows up to try and recruit Dax to her team (cue: lesbian fan fic). Kira creepily maintains eye contact while sipping on her drink. Dax continues to absent-mindedly tell stories while Kira obsessively keeps trying to get her to help hold the Valerians and promises to “get rid of Sisko.” Quark overhears and Kira throws him down like an SS officer.
Apparently, this wiry Bajoran is so strong, she breaks Quark's neck. Jesus. So he reveals to Odo that he overheard Kira's little insurrection. Odo realises that everyone is acting strangely and Quark starts yelling, revealing that the neck brace is a Mort Goldman style ruse and he's not that badly hurt.
Odo finds O'Brien of all people sitting at Sisko's desk, reviewing the Klingon's logs. From what little we manage to garner from the video, something akin to the spheres from “Contagion” infected the Klingon vessel, and a mutiny ensued.
Odo finds Sisko in his quarters under heavy guard quietly and obsessively drawing a clock. In case we didn't already get it, he lets us know that he doesn't give a shit about the station anymore and tells Odo to talk to O'Brien.
Instead of slowly letting our characters transform into their various personæ, the episode has to beat us over the head with their new personalities ad nauseum. Either the writers didn't have confidence in the strength of their characters (and our ability to recognise the change subtly) or they really thought all these little performances were worth the screentime.
Act 4 : **, 17%
Mirroring O'Brien, Odo finds Kira with her feet up in his office, asking for his help. She confesses to locking down the Valerian ship. She tries seducing him with promises of her upcoming rule of the station. Odo tries communicating with an outside political party but the Federation and Bajor, but Kira and O'Brien have respectively restricted such communication. Odo is not surprised. He reviews the Klingon's newly reconstructed logs revealing the spheres of doom and an ancient power struggle.
Sisko orders O'Brien to arrest all the Bajorans, but O'Brien is more cautious and cunning. Sisko would rather go down phasers firing than play subterfuge with Kira, but O'Brien convinces him to wait while they conspire to leave on the Valerian vessel.
I think I know what Joe Menosky was going for here; the superimposed personæ attach themselves to hosts who most closely resemble the archived personality; Kira and Sisko are emotionally volatile leaders and, to a certain extent, don't trust each other; O'Brien is loyal and clever; Dax is nostalgic and aloof; Bashir is an observer, curious about politics (his later forays into spy thrillers are a testament to that). The problem is, the personality shifts are so extreme that we can't take these actions as revelations about their real characters (in contrast to, say, “The Killing Game”). If the episode could have been more patient and kept its cards closer, we could have followed a more natural progression from normal characterisation to exaggerated personæ.
So Odo finalises his theory about the telepathic matrix, using Bashir's own paranoia against him to get him to devise a technobabble solution to the real problem (the matrix) under the guise of dealing with the reenacted power struggle.
A Bajoran tries to poison Sisko in Ops. I suppose this particular Bajoran was in Ops when the Klingon was transported, because if he's just a regular unaffected officer following Kira's orders, that would reveal some major problems in the station's personnel.
So Sisko and O'Brien beat up Dax and the Bajoran agent, but Kira arrives with an armed party right before Sisko is able to kill the guy. Huh. So I guess there really will be some personnel problems. I'm sure there will be consequences...
Act 5 : *.5, 17%
Clever Miles beams Sisko and himself to safety (since Dax was too absent-minded to shut down the transporters). Odo plays along with Sisko while Bashir continues looking for his solution. Kira figures out that Odo is helping Sisko (but of course he plays it off as leading the commander into a trap).
Question : where is everybody? Isn't anyone else on duty? It seems like it's just the senior staff and a couple of extras running around the station at this point.
The notion that only those in direct proximity to the Klingon is confirmed as Odo drives out the matrix or whatever only when the senior staff is together (also ruling out the possibility that any of the other Bajorans (including the one who tried to kill Sisko) were affected, meaning they did this of their own volition. Geeze.
What follows is a goofy scene that takes all the suspense from the Beverly/Geordi plot in “Disaster” and throws it out so Odo can flush the matrices into space while the crew calmly avoids being blown out with it, suffering no ill effects. Great.
Kira tries to do some back-pedalling on this confusing idea by offering an apology to Sisko. We are given an interesting final shot where Sisko contemplates the clock he built while under the influence. Could this mean something? A sign of things to come?
Episode as Functionary : *.5, 10%
A story with a lot of promise is really botched by some poor choices. How to fix this? Have the mutiny plot build up very slowly and naturally from Kira's initial disagreement with Sisko; there need to be a couple of scenes *after* they're affected by the matrix where they speak like themselves and gradually take on the exaggerated personalities unto a crisis point, when Odo can step in and save the day. Instead, they almost instantly change and we have to endure a bunch of pointless scenes that reveal to us nothing about these characters. Too bad. Another kind of significant issue is all the other people on the station! I mean, many of them went along with Sisko's and Kira's rivalry but weren't affect by the matrix. Shouldn't there be some fallout from how easily the Bajorans mutinied or how willing the Starfleet officers were to throwing the Bajorans under the bus?
Final Score : **
Thu, Mar 26, 2015, 11:28pm (UTC -5)
That line and Kira's reaction to it always kills me. :)
Fri, Jul 17, 2015, 8:03pm (UTC -5)
Anyway, one thing that's a bit frustrating about this show is that the Federation/Bajoran explosion of tensions that happens just underlines the story that's not being told -- which is, well, what actually *is* the Federation/Bajoran situation? How well *do* they work together usually? There's a lot of focus on Kira, but there are no other Bajorans on the station who have any key role (next episode introduces Neela). If the episode tells us something about these characters, and the Federation/Bajoran relations, we have to be able to at least somewhat measure it against a standard, which is somewhat lacking in this not-bad but scattered premiere season. I guess the way I'd interpret the story of this episode as being something along the lines of: historical conflicts repeat themselves, with smaller variations than one might think, in different situations, and it *can* become easy for conflicts to start following a near-predetermined script if there aren't sober minds ready to remind people who they are. It's a little like TOS' "Day of the Dove" in that way, but DotD didn't distort its characters quite so much that they were totally unrecognizable. As well as the idea that the conflict grows out of the conflict over the Valerians, Elliott points out that the personalities people take on have something to do with their original personalities; I'd add to his list that O'Brien's "don't get too close with the natives" statement to Dax in the Runabout represents a somewhat parochial and small-minded attitude that the generally very decent O'Brien occasionally shows. Bashir's excitement at a whole conflict springing up around him seems of a piece not just with his later spy novels but his enthusiasm about being approached by Garak when he believed Garak to be a likely spy, as well as his general desire to be on a station primarily to be close to the action rather than because of his genuine humanitarian concerns.
Brooks gets a lot of flak for his increasingly bizarre acting choices over the series, and I am not sure how I feel about him when he gets into full-on Brooks Acting mode later on, but I admit that it's kind of fun to see him going all out on playing a total maniac every now and again. IT'S A CLOCK!!!
Anyway, I end up enjoying this episode and it has a few points to recommend it, but it is *very* thin. I'd say 2 stars.
Fri, Oct 23, 2015, 8:17am (UTC -5)
What does work is Odo's playing off against all sides - particularly the smooth way he switches gears to engage Bashir - which continues to reinforce the feeling that Odo is developing into one of the strongest characters of this first series. 2.5 stars.
Mon, Jan 4, 2016, 12:08pm (UTC -5)
And why were you making the clock?
...I have no idea.
Thu, Feb 11, 2016, 9:10am (UTC -5)
What we have is essentially a story where almost none of the main characters appear, as all but two of them act like completely different persons. Yet, the way the mutiny unfolds in a slow-burn, the enjoyably kooky performances from everyone playing someone new and the general atmosphere of unease as the new suspicious characters play off against each other all manage to make it a somewhat enjoyable, if ultimately pointless, outing.
If there's any flaw it's the complete lack of resolution to the Valerian ship sub-plot. Before the wackiness even begins, Kira is determined to show that they're supplying weapons to the Cardassians. They eventually discover that they are, in fact, doing just that. However, once the virus has been dealt with, it's all just forgotten about. What happened to them? Were they turned over to Bajoran authorities? Was their cargo seized? Who knows.
Thu, Feb 11, 2016, 11:09am (UTC -5)
You were doing so well up until now too... :P
Thu, Feb 11, 2016, 12:31pm (UTC -5)
Of course, that's all just my opinion. I could be wrong. :P
Thu, Feb 11, 2016, 2:15pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Mar 1, 2016, 7:11am (UTC -5)
Bajorans automatically following Kira when she tells them to go after the Starfleet personnel. Hmm... I wonder what the Baj security would do if, say, there were a civil war or uprising?
Heh, I liked the clock.
Fri, Jul 8, 2016, 3:10pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Mar 8, 2017, 2:00am (UTC -5)
I'm not opposed to alien possession plots as cliché as they are so long as they are handled well here it was okay.
The broader consequences would be interesting though what would happen once Starfleet Command and the BPG learn about this?
What if Kira had actually killed Sisko? Even if the BPG disavowed it and the possession was later discovered how would SF react?
Tue, May 9, 2017, 7:30pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Jun 2, 2017, 12:35pm (UTC -5)
Avery Brooks: 10/10
Love it when he hams up the place
Thu, Jul 6, 2017, 4:05pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Jul 17, 2017, 1:40am (UTC -5)
Thu, Sep 21, 2017, 4:53pm (UTC -5)
Well the battle lines are drawn better in the season finale, even if they achieved this by using the horrible Keiko. Ugh.
Mon, Dec 25, 2017, 7:51pm (UTC -5)
It's fun finding little things like that.
Tue, Jan 2, 2018, 4:23pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Jun 17, 2018, 9:02am (UTC -5)
The clock-obsessed Sisko, otherwise lazy and careless, looks as if the writers took the historical figure of Louis XVI as role model, who also liked to do a little clock working as his hobby while neglecting politics - which led to the French Revolution...
Tue, Jul 24, 2018, 9:23pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Nov 15, 2018, 7:42pm (UTC -5)
I wasn't sure why Odo collapsed early in the episode -- might have been when the telepathic matrix tried to take him over and failed. I liked how the rivalry/mutiny slowly builds and sure enough we can suspect that it is yet another DS9 episode of the station coming under the influence of "illness". I guess that would be a problem with the timing/premise of "Dramatis Personae" -- how many times in Season 1 has the station or its key personnel been in jeopardy like this ("Babel", "The Forsaken", "Q-Less", "If Wishes Were Horses" to name a few).
It kind of felt like a Mirror Universe episode (but DS9 will get its fair share of those). Also, it's an excuse to make the characters act out of character -- won't be the last time in DS9.
Kira really should have killed Sisko -- for how long did she have him at gunpoint? Naturally, Sisko is allowed to make a speech which buys time for Odo/Bashir to save the day -- quite typical. It's a pretty good Odo episode in terms of being the investigator, being neutral and not being vulnerable to the telepathic matrix.
2.5 stars for "Dramatis Personae" -- standard stuff but well executed. I think Visitor/Kira show why she is one of the best actors/characters on DS9 - different approaches to wooing Dax/Odo (not unlike Mirror Kira). Fairly predictable but a decent, enjoyable episode.
Tue, Nov 27, 2018, 10:03am (UTC -5)
Nothing spectacular, a bit boring, but a respectable offering overall.
Tue, Dec 4, 2018, 12:06am (UTC -5)
Tue, Dec 4, 2018, 12:11am (UTC -5)
I'm with you on that one. It's always been one of my favorites of S1 hands down. Aside from the fun story, it also ends up anticipating a lot of character traits in almost everyone that only become established much, much later. Details in this one end up being revisited (intentionally or not) in many episodes to come. Besides all that it plays on the basis suspense of the divided loyalties in the main cast and casts them all in an extreme light to show exactly where we're at right now in the series in terms of how much trust has really been established. It's almost like a bottle where we're being shown the character bibles from square one, but with a twist - that being, to act out the worst case scenario of how things might actually have gone down with Bajor.
Tue, Feb 26, 2019, 12:26am (UTC -5)
Sun, Oct 13, 2019, 9:58am (UTC -5)
Could the ep have been better? Yes. I'd have liked to have seen more of the real characters, but at this point in the series they are still getting established so we don't know whether these are amplified traits, or just completely out of character.
For sci-fi there are stock plots and ideas, but the details in how it's executed are generally what interest me. So this episode,the question was 'they are out of character - why?'. That's what kept me watching, and of course the answer to that also determines whether the station and/or characters are in danger.
Not the best episode, but interesting enough for me - the the first time round, anyway, and again after enough time has passed to forget how it turns out. Certainly not a favourite to regularly revisit.
Sun, Nov 17, 2019, 2:41pm (UTC -5)
A throwaway episode that's not really worth rewatching.
Sat, Apr 18, 2020, 2:13am (UTC -5)
Entire command staff of DS9 grab onto the flimsiest, least secure boxes in the Star Trek universe.
Fri, Jun 19, 2020, 11:04am (UTC -5)
Tue, Aug 10, 2021, 1:48am (UTC -5)
Mon, Feb 14, 2022, 1:58pm (UTC -5)
Re-watching it and Dax is hilarious. Her portrayal is just so wonderfully random. It makes no sense, no explanation is given, and it is simply briliantly played by Farrell. A highlight.
Mon, Mar 28, 2022, 9:54pm (UTC -5)
Maybe a person just has to be in the right mood to appreciate this episode. I just found it irritating this time.
Tue, Jul 12, 2022, 10:16pm (UTC -5)
Here we go again with people no appreciating philosophical problems. This episode ask the the question who are we really? And it teaches us a potential way to get a conspiracy theorist to defeat themselves.
You dont nees character development all the time if there are lessons to be learned.
Wed, Nov 9, 2022, 10:49pm (UTC -5)
(same) and some real DK masterpieces.
I also know which of you are with me and which are against me.
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